USC Research Could Change Robotic Surgery in the Future


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Is there an objective, standardized way to train the next generation of surgeons? Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC think so, with an assist from technology that could change robotic surgery in the future.

Image Caption: Andrew Hung is researching methods to train the next generation of surgeons in robotic surgery. (Photo/Van Urfalian)

Using a data recorder plugged into a robotic surgery system, a Keck School of Medicine team analyzed expert and novice surgeons’ movements during the reconstruction step of robotic radical prostatectomy, a common surgery for prostate cancer. The data helped the team assess surgical skills, develop a needle-driving gesture classification system and create a training tutorial. The results of their study will appear in the October issue of The Journal of Urology.

“Although robotic surgery is a widely adopted minimally invasive option for treating prostate cancer, standardized training for it doesn’t exist yet,” said the study’s corresponding author, Andrew Hung, assistant professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine. “In order to create a methodical, streamlined training tutorial for this main reconstruction step of the prostate surgery, we relied on automated performance metrics and observation to objectively measure surgeon performance.”

Robotic Surgery in the Future: Developing a Tutorial

The data were used to develop a tutorial that broke the complex surgicy step into smaller, discrete steps.

“While there is no single perfect way to do a perfect operation, creating a standardized method for robotic surgery training provides surgeons a common training ground,” Hung said.

Hung and his colleagues are currently testing the efficacy of the tutorial with a group of medical students in the research lab at the Keck School of Medicine. Team members hope their approach to developing this training tutorial could one day be applied to any procedure in any kind of robotic operation.

Robotic radical prostatectomy accounts for 87 percent of prostate cancer surgeries in the United States.

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